For Dubliners, Laser DVD was always known as a connoseuir's choice when it came to movies.
Sure, upstairs in Tower and HMV were reasonably well-stocked, but Laser was the only place you could find Tartan DVDs - that's the also-defunct foreign distribution company that gave us such classics as Oldboy, Guillermo Del Toro's little-seen first film Cronos and countless others.
It also had a Stormtrooper helmet proudly displayed out the front in the George's Street window and some other memorabilia - possibly the Pulse rifle from Aliens - hanging over its door at its shop on the corner of Trinity and Andrew Street, just up from Exchequer St.
Film nerds across Dublin knew Laser and knew it well. Its staff were knowledgeable, friendly and had no problem ordering in some obscure Bruce Lee film if you had the catalogue number. Keep in mind, this was long before the Internet and Netflix.
As Laser DVD shuts it doors for the (hopefully not) final time, we thought we'd do a quick rundown of some of our own purchases from Laser DVD.
Carl Sagan's original TV series about the mysteries of the universe was a cult classic that, for whatever reason, only had a single run on Irish television once in the very late 1980's. The DVD boxset, which housed hours of extra features, sat proudly behind the desk in George's St. with a number of other documentaries and boxsets. Laser's documentary section was infamous with its breadth of stock. You could find a documentary on almost any topic.
4. THE PROPOSITION
Guy Pearce's Australian Western was bleak, brutal and beautiful - and, naturally, was incredibly difficult to come by. A Tartan DVD release, The Proposition was to be a calling card for director John Hillcoat, who went on to film The Road and Lawless. Laser's Western section not only had recent entries to the genre, but thousands of hard-to-come-by Spaghetti Westerns, including a vast array of the original Django spin-offs, all of Sergio Leone's works and countless others.
Laser also had a number of US DVDs that, for whatever reason, never got a UK printing. Or if they did, they were rare. Steve McQueen's Bullitt - which has the greatest car chase ever put on film - was one such example. The film was a critical and commercial hit, but for whatever reason, it never got a wide release in Irish cinemas and was largely unknown until later years. McQueen plays a monosyllabic San Fran cop with an amazing car (Ford Mustang GTO Fastback, for the petrolheads) who's protecting a mob witness that's wanted for trial.
Laser's foreign language and Asian horror section was renowned and well-stocked. You could find all sorts of rarities; early Kurosawa films, Shogun Assassin, Bruce Lee's Big Boss, that Street Fighter II manga - on video, of course. Oldboy, however, was one of the first purchases we made from Laser. A friend had told us about this truly f**ked-up Korean film about a hammer and a guy trapped in a room. We'd tramped across all the bigger places and couldn't find it - until we entered Laser. Such was our exasperation, we didn't even bother to go to the requisite section. A kindly, but clearly frustrated clerk walked around his desk and led us to the section and pulled it out off a clearly-marked - all shiny and wrapped up in plastic. He gave us a "You're 18, right?" look and sent us on our way. It's been a few years now so we can admit this. No. Just turned 17, actually.
1. BODY HEAT
Lawrence Kasdan's Body Heat is one of our all-time favourite films. Starring William Hurt and Kathleen Turner, it tells the story of a lawyer who's ensnared by a beautiful femme fatale to murder her husband so they can make off with the money. Yes, it's basically the plot to Wayne's World 2 - except they did it first. We found this DVD when we were looking for a Blu-ray version of Heat - the one with Robert DeNiro & Al Pacino - and the guy behind us who was reorganising the DVDs and Blu-Rays recommended it to us. We bought it on his word and he was absolutely right. Sure, streaming services and so on are great and easy to use - but where's the personal interaction? Where's the knowledgeable nerd behind the counter that can point you to a good film?